Sumi-E Ink Painting
Created by Susan Summit Cyr
“Before painting a bamboo, it is necessary for the bamboo to grow in your soul. Then with the brush in hand and eyes focused, the vision will arise. Capture it immediately and sketch it because it may quickly dissolve like a wild rabbit when a hunter approaches.” —Master Sung Tung Po
The Japanese tradition of brush painting with black ink, is ancient and yet has persevered to the present. Using a lyrical and poetic line, a Sumi-E master uses a minimum of marks to express the essence of the subject matter being depicted. Our project will focus on depicting the most important characteristics of a plant or animal to capture form with a minimum number of brushstrokes. Students will manipulate the line itself to suggest detail and suffuse their subject with life. Secondarily, the student will finish their paintings with a carefully placed signature “chop” in red ink.
• Introduce students to the basic techniques of ink painting with a brush
• Create a painting in the style of traditional Sumi-E
• Understand the importance of line and explore its expressive qualities
• Learn how to manipulate line to its maximum extent (thick/thin, smooth/rough, curving/jagged)
• Edit or distill an image down to its “essence” to convey information in a simplified way, creating a painting with a minimum of marks
• Understand balance in a composition and the role of a signature in art
Supplies: Per Student
Sumi-E brush (Chinese brush) approx. #3 if available or Large round watercolor brush (#8-10) size
Plastic cup (2-4 oz size) with one to two teaspoons (India) black ink (suitable for use in the classroom)
Container with water
2-4 sheets Kraft paper (brown), cut to approximately 12” x 18”
3-4 sheets rice paper, 9” x 12”, white
1 sheet white cardstock, 11” x 17”
Red ultra-fine Sharpie marker
Assorted reference images
Spray adhesive: USED ONLY BY ADULTS OUTDOORS Pre-preparation
▪ Distance Learning Tips – Suggestions to help make this experience enjoyable for all.
▪ Elements of Art – Resource sheet with vocabulary used by artists.